|@ Lightning (43-27-5)||1||0||1||2|
The Panthers allowed the Lightning to get way too many opportunities early on into the game, especially since the Lightning played just last night. Brian Campbell got a delay of game penalty within the first few minutes and Tyler Johnson capitalized quickly, putting the Lightning on the board. Reilly Smith nearly tied the game up right afterward, but the puck hit the post. Jiri Hudler would head to the penalty box for holding next, giving the Bolts the chance to widen their lead. This time around, the Panthers were stronger defensively and successfully killed the penalty.
The Lightning were dominating in every aspect of the game, but leave it to Vincent Trocheck to catch a breakaway and score from the left side of the ice. The goal was assisted by Jussi Jokinen, who fed Trocheck a pretty sweet pass to make the tally possible. The Panthers would get their first power play opportunity late in the game off of a Steven Stamkos high sticking call, and they gave the Lightning a taste of their own medicine. Jaromir Jagr got the puck past Vasilevskiy to put the Panthers in the lead. Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau assisted the goal.
At the end of the period, the Panthers led the Lightning 2-1 but trailed slightly in shots on goal 12-11. The Panthers started off slowly this period and still never fully caught their footing, but they did score a few lucky goals and that is always helpful. In order to keep their lead, the Cats will need to make sure their defense is as strong as it can be.
The puck was all over the ice in the first few minutes of the second. The Lightning had a couple of very substantial shots, though, and Luongo had to put in a lot of effort to save them. Tampa was pushing Luongo hard, but Steven Stamkos was called for interference and the Panthers would get the chance to generate some more offense. However, they were not incredibly successful in doing so and the penalty was swiftly killed. Brian Boyle was called for kneeing and the Panthers would get yet another opportunity but once again, they could not score. Shortly after that, Aaron Ekblad was penalized for closing his hand on the puck but after some big saves by Luongo, this penalty too was killed. These teams were getting desperate in this clearly important game and it was showing with the penalties they were both receiving. The Panthers won a face off in the offensive zone and it paid off because an Alex Petrovic wrist shot hit Jiri Hudler, who tipped it in.
Nick Bjugstad was awarded the secondary assist. At the end of the period, the Panthers led 3-1 but the Lightning still had a slight edge in shots on goal 24-21. The Panthers played well offensively once again this period but were lacking in defensive play. Luongo was relied upon way too much this period and in past games, this has not always been the best move. A two goal lead is never safe and the Panthers must note that coming into the final frame.
The Panthers came out stronger than ever in the third, looking confident and skilled. Jaromir Jagr left the bench and immediately fed the puck to Aleksander Barkov and he passed to Jonathan Huberdeau, who scored to put the Panthers up by three. Huberdeau and Barkov kept on pushing after that goal and nearly widened the Panthers’ lead even further. Steven Kampfer was called for tripping Erik Condra, but Condra was called for the embellishment so there was no man advantage on the play. With 6:24 left in the period, Jon Cooper pulled Andrei Vasilevskiy and made way for the extra Lightning attacker.
The Panthers would have one less attacker to battle the Bolts’ six after Jonathan Huberdeau was sent to the penalty box on a tripping call. Steven Stamkos was able to score on this two-player advantage to put the Lightning between two. After a brief stint, Vasilevskiy headed back to the bench. 6-on-4 play would be revived for the rest of the game because Steven Kampfer was called for holding. It is also important to mention that in this time period, Vincent Trocheck had multiple shorthanded opportunities but each one hit the post and just barely missed. Jussi Jokinen, however, was luckier. He scored from across the ice and the Panthers would win 5-2.
Vincent Trocheck is making quick strides to become the team’s MVP. He scored off of a breakaway to put the Panthers on the board because of course he did. Equally successful and incredibly disciplined, Jaromir Jagr scored his 25th goal to tie Vincent Trocheck and put the Panthers in the lead. His line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov was on fire tonight. Barkov and Huberdeau assisted the Jagr goal and Huberdeau also scored in the third. That goal was assisted by none other than Jaromir Jagr and Aleksander Barkov.
A great Petrovic slapper off the draw led to a Jiri Hudler goal to put the Panthers up by two late in the second. In addition to assisting the Trocheck goal, Jussi Jokinen extended his point streak by scoring an empty netter in the final minute of the game. The Panthers’ success would not have been possible without Luongo, who made multiple huge saves to keep the Cats in the game.
The Panthers will head home on Tuesday, March 29th, to face the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7:30 pm ET. Stay tuned for a COTP preview and recap of that game.